Runnin’ Rebels ride off into 2017 with win over Cowboys

The year 2016 is one most UNLV basketball fans would just as soon forget.

It began with back-to-back road losses at Colorado State and Wyoming that resulted in the mid-season firing of head coach Dave Rice, featured an at-times comical head coaching search that resulted in a mass exodus of blue chip recruits, and included an embarrassing 94-45 beatdown by Duke in the first college basketball game played at the new T-Mobile Arena.

But the Runnin’ Rebels (8-7, 1-1) had plenty of reason to celebrate on New Year’s Eve after delivering the biggest win of the Marvin Menzies era on Saturday afternoon, a 81-75 Mountain West victory over Wyoming (11-4, 1-1) before an announced crowd of 9,352 at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Junior guard Jovan Mooring led a balanced UNLV attack that saw five players score in double figures with 17 points and seven assists, helping seal the win by going a perfect 4-of-4 at the free throw line in the final 18.4 seconds.

The victory meant UNLV finished an even 17-17 overall during the 2016 calendar year.

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Rebels, behind a strong game in the paint from 6-7 senior forward Christian Jones (15 points, 10 rebounds) led by as many as 11 points in the first half en route to a 42-36 halftime advantage. But Wyoming, which cruised past Air Force, 84-72, in its Mountain West opener, chipped away and came back to tie it, 59-59, with 7:56 to go on a three-point play by sophomore guard Justin James.

UNLV took the lead for good, 64-61, on a 3-pointer from the right corner by sophomore guard Kris Clyburn and led 73-65 with 1:04 remaining after a free throw by Mooring. But Wyoming got as close as 77-75 after a James floater with 13.9 seconds left before Mooring and guard Uche Ofoegbu clinched it by both sinking a pair of free throws

WHO STOOD OUT: Jones had his second double-double of the season while Mooring had 11 points in the second half, including the four key free throws in the final 18.4 seconds. Clyburn grabbed a career-high 13 rebounds – the fourth time this season he’s had 10 or more boards in a game – to go along with seven points.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Seven assists, one turnover, so I would say he was pretty good. There was a moment in time when I was watching him play and I was like, ‘That’s some good play there.'” — UNLV coach Marvin Menzies on the play of junior point guard Jovan Mooring.

UP NEXT: The Rebels host first place Boise State (9-4, 2-0) on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at the Thomas & Mack Center. The Broncos edged visiting Colorado State, 74-73, on Saturday.

NOTABLE: Wyoming has the second best RPI in the Mountain West (67) behind only Nevada (33). UNLV is 217. … Mooring had just one turnover to go with his seven assists and three steals in 31 minutes of action. … Wyoming finished with just five offensive rebounds, tying the low for a Runnin’ Rebel opponent this season. Southern Utah also had five. … The Cowboys, who entered the game shooting 33 percent from 3-point range and averaging 9.6 made treys per game, were just 5-of-26 beyond the arc (19.2 percent). … Wyoming is now 3-26 all-time at UNLV and hasn’t won a road game against the Rebels since Feb. 1, 2003.

Jovan Mooring photo by UNLV photo services

Click on graphic below for final stats:

screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-3-02-01-pm

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